Why corporal punishment?

Dear Editor,
In light of growing complaints about teachers severely beating children in schools, Education Minister Priya Manickchand has said she believes it is time that Guyana decides on a definitive position when it comes to corporal punishment in schools.
This focus on the Government with respect to national consultation on corporal punishment is rather astounding given that Guyana has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and that convention makes it rather clear that corporal punishment is an unacceptable practice. The obligation to prohibit all corporal punishment of children falls directly under Articles 19, 28 (2) and 37 of the Convention.
Article 19 (1): “States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child….”
Article 28 (2): “States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that school discipline is administered in a manner consistent with the child’s human dignity and in conformity with the present Convention.”
Article 37: “States Parties shall ensure that: (a) No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age….”
But that is not the only reason why corporal punishment should simply be abolished by the Ministry of Education without a consultation. For one, it is not a Government policy to have a national consultation before it makes decisions affecting the entire population. Nor does Government apply consultation in making decisions about the education sector. So why should there be an exception for corporal punishment?
As well, corporal punishment as a strategy for discipline is dated. It was thought to be effective at a time when information to the contrary was not available. Today there is mountain of evidence that explains the negative effects of corporal punishment. And there is significant research that indicates how corporal punishment affects the mental, emotional and social well-being of the child and classroom dynamic.
The fact is that those parents who still hold on to corporal punishment as a viable a tool and cite their own experiences as evidence, still do not know any better and thus do not have a basis to make comparisons. As well, many of them simply dismiss any evidence presented to them by saying, ‘I’m proof that corporal punishment works’, unaware that lack of corporal punishment would not have made them lesser individuals any which way but could have provided greater scope of the development of their overall well-being and its resulting concomitants.
As an individual who taught both in Guyana where I used corporal punishment and in New York City where I did not, I say with absolute certainty that I was a far better teacher for not using corporal punishment. I also recall how bitter many of ex-students from Guyana were about my use of corporal punishment during a number of exchanges on Facebook. And as I indicated during those exchanges, I could not justify use of corporal punishment and was profuse in my apology to them.
The fact is that in the seventies and eighties I used corporal punishment in Guyana because it was a classroom norm practiced by all teachers and none of us knew any better. After migrating to the US, I learnt better and my subsequent teaching practice borne out the fact that corporal punishment was unnecessary.
As well, my wife and I brought up my son without corporal punishment and he grew up to be caring, compassionate, ethical, principled, generous every which way as well as a fabulous learner.
Thus, Minister Priya Manickchand should adhere to the demands of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and consider all the evidence that indicates that corporal punishment is a harmful, scarring practice. Perhaps too, the Honourable Minister may consider provision of ongoing training for teachers on ‘Classroom Management Without Corporal Punishment’ so that they will be armed with tools that would make corporal punishment obsolete, retrogressive and absolutely unnecessary. If needs be, The Caribbean Voice can offer a free train the trainer programme whether virtual or face to face.

Annan Boodram
The Caribbean Voice